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Sleep Apnea Medications

Medical Editor:

What are the different types of sleep apnea medicines?

Doctors generally do not recommend medications as the primary treatment for sleep apnea. However, some drugs can help patients manage symptoms of sleep apnea including daytime sleepiness, or difficulty sleeping. Medications include wakefulness-promoting drugs to help patients with daytime sleepiness such as Provigil (modafinil) and Nuvigil (armodafinil). Other medications to treat sleep apnea aid in sleep, including benzodiazepines such as Halcion (triazolam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Valium (diazepam); barbiturates such as Seconal Sodium (secobarbital sodium); nonbenzodiazapine hypnotics including Edluar (zolpidem tartrate) and Ambien (zolpidem tartrate), sedatives such as Xyrem (sodium oxybate), and melatonin receptor agonists such as Hetlioz (tasimelteon).

Over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids should be used only on the advice of a physician if you have sleep apnea. These include Sominex, Nytol (diphenhydramine), and Unisom (doxylamine). In some cases, OTC nasal decongestants such as Afrin (oxymetazoline), Neo-Synephrine (phenylephrine), and Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) may be used to treat mild cases of snoring associated with sleep apnea.

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